Ten Taste-Safe Activities for Texture Exploration

Nora Hedgecock, OTR/L - May 20, 2020

The tactile system, or our sense of touch, plays a major role in development. It impacts fine motor skills, feeding, body awareness, motor planning, emotion regulation, and social skills. The tactile system is our largest sensory system and from the time we are born, we rely on tactile information to feel balanced, organized, and regulated. 

We are constantly getting information from our tactile system as we are always actively or passively touching or being touched by objects in our environment – people, clothes, lotion/sunscreen, crayons and markers, feeding utensils, the ground beneath us, the list goes on! This information is critical in helping us understand and interact with the world around us.

When children are over-responsive or hyper-sensitive to tactile information, a friend brushing against them at school may be perceived as painful, clothing tags or certain fabrics may be intolerable, and aversions to food textures may lead to picky eating. Children who are under-responsive to tactile information may not notice when they are messy, have poor body awareness, or show decreased reactions to pain.

Introducing messy play with a variety of textures from an early age is critical to supporting the tactile system and the many skills that grow from it. Find 10 of our favorite tactile activities below. We like to use taste-safe ingredients, which means you don’t have to worry about your little one putting their hands in their mouth while getting messy – getting messy is the whole point!

Keep it Simple

  • Water: Water on its own is a tactile experience, but adding hand soap, food coloring, or ice cubes can make things a little more exciting – use straws to blow bubbles, bath toys to swim, and splash away!
  • Dried Rice, Beans, or Corn Kernels: We have tactile bins filled with each of these at P2P and love to search for hidden treasures, bury our feet, and practice writing letters – the opportunities are endless!
  • Dried Pasta: Another great dry texture to scoop, mix, and count – explore the contrasting textures and shapes of different kinds of pasta!
  • Dried Cereals and Oatmeal: A fun one to taste as you play, drive cars through oatmeal on a cookie sheet or create a pretend construction site – use a sponge to squeeze some water on top (strengthening those hand muscles!) and see how the texture changes
  • Flour: Explore the silkiness of dry flour or create edible cloud dough by mixing in some oil (8 parts flour to one part oil)
  • Edible Finger Paint: Use yogurt, pudding, baby food, or prepared baby cereal as finger paint that’s safe to taste
  • Chia Pudding: Let chia seeds and water sit for a few hours and you’ll have a slimy, gooey bowl to hide toys inside of or just squish around!

A Little More Involved :)

  • Jello: Make shallow trays of Jello and have fun making it jiggle, use cookie cutters to make silly, wiggly shapes, and practice using feeding utensils in a fun way!
  • Oobleck: Mix 2 cups of cornstarch with 1 cup of water (and food coloring if you have it!) to create this fascinating substance that’s a liquid one moment, and solid the next
  • Cake Play Doh: Mix a box of cake mix with ½ cup of oil, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, and 5 tablespoons of powdered sugar for the yummiest play doh you’ve ever played with! 

We hope you enjoy these tactile activities as much as we do. Always keep your child’s food intolerances or allergies in mind when selecting an activity – there are many modifications that can be made based on dietary restrictions. 

Have fun getting messy!